WILLIAM J. LOCKE
RENES-LES-EAUX lies in the heart of Savoy. You get to it, even from its distant railway station, by a valley road winding between rugged mountains scarred by water-courses down which ribbons of cascades fall precipitously into the milky stream that, in its turn, feeds the great Isere. In summer-time, your road thither or further on or round about leads through a fairyland informed by the spirit of a gentle ogre. The wild heights, all scaurs and escarpments and crags, might be so ugly and violent; but Providence has ordained that man should cultivate them in reverence. The vast panorama of the valley wears the smile of the Surrey Hills. There, away up in the clouds, where the benevolent stranger might dissuade a goat from venturing, lie peaceful farmsteads of meadow and fields of corn and maize and here and there a patch of vines, all terraced out down the declivity, and, in the midst, the pink and yellow-washed farm-buildings with their brown shingled roofs. The lower slopes show a land of luxuriant herbage, in which cream-colored cattle was fat and sleek. The faint tinkle of their bells is music to the ear alert. It is a land of courtesy and gentle manners, preservative of its nationality. Titular Italy or titular France, to the Savoyard it is always Savoy. Like the Breton or the Basque, he has the breeding of a pure race.
You turn a corner and fall, all of a sudden, into Renesdes-Eaux—a few acres of capricious plain in the bosom of the mountains. Two glacier-fed torrents leap over boulders through its outskirts and meet in boisterous turbulence like water-dogs at play. The little place is embowered in sycamores. There is the Grande Állee, full quarter of a mile in length, from the row of shops, past the pleasant hotels, chairs and tables set out all the way, past the miniature park adjacent to the modest and unsuspected Etablissement des Bains, to the Mecca of the Votaries to Tenuity (for whom the place exists), the Kiosque built over the fountain, whence gush eternal the luke-warm waters that give the place its title. And there, in the well, stand smiling Savoyardes in national costume, gold and black pointed Medici cap, fichu over bosom, and full skirts, who hand up the over-brimming colored glasses.
There was never such a tiny spot wrested from the wilderness for the benefit of the super-civilized. It is the Fons Juventatis of the adipose.
OAULA, who had an eye for proportion, viewing the ■L receding stream of pilgrims from her chair on the Allee, christened it the Broad Walk.
Clara Demeter’s left hand clutched her arm while the other indicated one trousered and two skirted beams, a family trio.
“Darling, do say I don’t look like that.”
She received Paula’s reassurance dubiously. If Hell knows no Fury like a woman scorned, Earth knows no pessimistic sceptic like a woman putting on weight.
They had arrived the day before, Paula still defiant of Pandolfo who had appeared at Victoria Station to see them off. There, however, she was protected by Lord Demeter and Spencer Babington both bound for Aix-lesBains. She noted amusedly a look of disconcertment on his face when he became aware of the two men, on whose escort he had not counted. As an offering he brought a neat luncheon basket fitted with paulinium articles. An experiment, said he, of some time ago. He deplored the lack of time to bring it up to date, but he had all the boxes and cups and things engraved with her initial. Besides, the basket held a far better meal than could be
A SYNOPSIS OF THE FIRST INSTALMENT
PAULA FIELD, young and lovely widow of a gallant soldier, had just refused, for the fifth time, that most persistent of her many suitors, Sir Spencer Babington.
After he had gone a feeling of vague uneasiness oppressed her. Could she remain always faithful to the memory of her husband, and face a future of dreary solitude?
But when her thoughts turned back to Spencer Babington, she knew she could never seriously consider him as a prospective husband.
In the midst of these disquieting musings, there came a week-end invitation from her friend Lady Demeter, and at Hinsted Park, Paula Field met Sir Victor Pandolfo, the great inventor. He was a self-made man of obscure origin, a strange personality, arrogant, blustering, almost insolent at times, impetuous, self-assertive, but Paula found herself curiously interested in him at times even fascinated and occasionally almost afraid, a new experience for a woman accustomed to the homage of men. He was working on a new metal, he told her: something that would revolutionize the world—a metal for which so far he had been unable to find an appropriate and satisfactory name.
Upon their return to London a casual week-end acquaintance developed into a singular intimacy. He was still working to perfect the metal, and the result of his first experiments, a casting of Cellini’s Perseus, Pandolfo sent to Paula. It was an exquisite thing, wrought with painstaking nicety, although the metal itself still lacked the color, the luster that he was striving for. In thanking him Paula asked how he happened to think of statuary as a use for the metal, and he answered, “Heredity. My father hawked a tray of plaster casts about the streets of London.”
Her gracious acceptance of this astounding statement, the charmingly natural manner in which she had continued their conversation, completely won him, and he left her with a virtual avowal on his lips.
Paula is induced to go to Bermondsey to see the metal works, and learns with a sense of outrage, that he has called the new metal Paulinium. Leaving the factory they go to Ranelagh, where Sir Victor Pandolfo learns that Paula is going, with Lady Demeter, to Renes-les-Eaux. He determines to accompany them.
found on train or boat. He vaunted the wine. Lord Demeter shook him warmly by Jhe. hand as the saviour of his life; meals in trains half Rilled him. Later, in the flying Pullman, Babington eyed the basket malevolently and whispered to Lady Demeter a wish that he could throw the damned thing out of the window. Paula enjoyed the journey. Pandolfo’s last words, as he waved his hat, had been:
“In a week or ten days I shall be with you.”
And hers, mocking:
“I’m not the least bit frightened.”
Yet now, sitting idle on that. August afternoon, under the shade of the trees, watching the slow procession, she felt conscious of a twinge of trepidation. Here was rest
of mind and body. For her, radiant of health, no pummellings under hot douches, no early morning tramps in the mountains (save for her own good pleasure), no drinking of waters. Nothing to do but eat and sleep and sit in the shade and listen with ironical amiability to Clara’s valetudinarian confidences. She resented the impending disturbance of this idyll of repose. He would dash into it like a bull or a tornado or any other Demon of Disquietude, playing havoc with everything. Possibly he might bring out with him, as a gift, a winged paulinium horse—or a pair—worked by some diabolical motor power of his own invention, and insist on her going riding with him over the clouds. There was nothing fantastically imaginable with which you could not associate Pandolfo.
A PLAINTIVE sigh aroused her from her reflections.
“I must go to the source and drink that dreadful water.”
“I’ll come with you and see you do it,” said Paula.
“I think you’re very silly not to take the treatment,” said Clara, rising. “It would do you all the good in the world.”
“And you feel so lonesome, doing it all by yourself, don’t you, dear?” laughed Paula. “I know I’m unkind, but I’ll remain, for the present, as God has seen fit to make me.”
She recalled a remark of Pandolfo’s at Victoria, during a discussion of the modern female mania for thinness:
“I don’t like,” said he, “a woman to rattle in my arms.”
The days passed restfully. A few acquaintances had found their way to Renes-les-Eaux, affording the distraction of unimportant talk.
One day Lord Demeter and Babington motored over for lunch from Aix-les-Bains. Demeter, mild in his gambling as in everything else, glowed faintly as the winner, up to date, of nine hundred and fifty francs. He told Paula the tale three times. Spencer Babington did not play. It was against his principles. Not, he explained, that he saw intrinsic harm in gambling; if any mind was broad, that mind was his; but he held it incorrect for a high Foreign Office official, to be seen playing at international tables. It was a question of the prestige of British diplomacy. His broad ribbon-hung monocle held between finger and thumb emphasized the proposition.
THE meal over, they left the hotel and crossed the gravelled walk to their table, one of a brightly filled row, beneath the line of sycamores. Instinctively the couples detached themselves, the two pairs of chairs some distance apart. Clara died to know how her dear old thing was progressing under his cure, and with wifely affection listened to the barometric account of symptoms. Babington looked round with the air of a conspirator, and
leaned his long body forward so that his head was close to Paula’s.
“I have something of the utmost importance to tell you,” he said, in a low tone. “It is the main reason for my coming over to-day. I couldn’t write it. These things must be secret. Confound the fellow!” he cried, edging his chair nearer, as the scarlet-vested Arab came hovering round in quest of orders for coffee. Paula laughed.
“Ali won’t give you away. Besides, he doesn’t talk English.”
“In my vocation, one can never be too careful.”
He waited until Ali, his mission fulfilled, had departed. “What I’m going to tell you must go no further—” he cast a backward significant glance at the Demeters. “I won’t ask for your promise. I take it for granted.”
“Oh, do go on, Spencer,” said Paula smiling. “It can’t be as solemn as all that.”
A wintry smile flickered over his face. Were she less tantalizing she would not be so adorable. He must bear with her gently.
“It concerns myself,” said he.
She opened her eyes. He nodded gravely.
She said with wicked swiftness. “You’re going to be married! Who is she?”
He flushed, “I’m going to do nothing of the kind.” “Well, what is it?”
“I was about to tell you. Two or three impending resignations will cause a reshuffling of diplomatic posts. Thank God the infernal newspapers haven’t got hold of the news yet. There’ll be appointments to the new Central European states—”
“And you’re going to get one,” she flashed. “Oh, I’m so glad. Which one is it?”
“You’ve spoiled my story, Paula,” he replied with an air of resignation. “All these matters are of infinite delicacy. In the first place the Ambassador or Ministers of Legation in question—I can’t tell you who they are— haven’t resigned yet. So no new appointments have been made. But I hear on good authority that my qualifications for one of the probable vacancies are being seriously considered in High Quarters.”
DAULA regarded him indulgently. So like dear old * Spencer. The mountain in labor and the ridiculous mouse popping out. She said:
“You know you have my warmest good wishes. Your career has always been of tremendous interest to me.” “But would you like me to go away, for a long term of years to—call it for the sake of argument— Ruritania?” “I should certainly miss the dearest of my friends,” she replied sincerely.
“You wouldn’t be glad that I was out óf the way?” “Good Lord, no. What do you mean? I tell you I should miss you dreadfully.”
Her surprise was so genuine that once more he took heart of grace.
“Well, then, supposing—Ruritania—Would you come out with me? Think what we could do together in such a
position. My influence, which means the influence of Great Britain, would be doubled, trebled, multiplied in terms of rhetoric—” he smiled—“a millionfold.”
Paula sighed, looked at him with queer, tired tenderness and laid her palm on the back of a hand that was gripping his knee.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear! Can’t you leave poor King Charles the First’s head out of the memorial?”
He gave a forlorn sign of acceptance of her refusal, fpr he knew from monotonous experience the futility of argument. He made one effort, however, to save his dignity.
“I would have you remember that this is only a contingent proposal,” said he, and turning towards the table on which the Arab had set the coffee, asked her if she took sugar.
Paula reflected that he might have acted in a precisely similar manner had she been a foreign diplomatist to whom he wished .to signify the end of a conversation.
Later, as the men were preparing to depart, Babington drew her aside from the waiting car.
“Of course, I did not tell you that I was prepared, in any circumstances, to accept an offer. A bachelor minister in a central European capital must lead a very lonely life. The thought terrifies me. It isn’t as if I needed—well— you know I’m a roan of private means. I love occupation and the sense that I am doing my country’s work. But in this particular case, you will have a great deal to do with my decision.”
“My dear Spencer,” she replied, “I absolutely refuse to be responsible for the fate of Europe.”
She moved towards the car and he had to follow. Lord Demeter consulted a fussy watch. They must start or he would miss the appointment with his doctor.
“Frank,” said Paula, “is one of the few men who take their gout seriously.”
“Poor darling!” cried Lady Demeter, “if you only could have seen his toe last spring.”
But Paula didn’t Want to marry Pandolfo. He was too dynamic; in spite of a fascinating childishness,
much more a force than a human being. He had laid grip on everything in her save her heart.
Paula asked: “And what about your toe, Spencer?”
“I’m glad to say,” he replied drily, “that I was never acutely aware that I possessed one. My cure is entirely preventive.”
The men took their leave. The car drove off. The two women strolled down the terrace of the hotel.
“I love Spencer,” said Paula. “If only he were my uncle, I should ask little more of life.”
A FEW more days of peace and, then, with great purring of engines and blowing of horns, swept in Sir Victor Pandolfo in his vast touring car which seemed to take up half the tiny place. It was evening, just before the dressing-hour, and Paula, taking the air on her balcony saw him arrive. An instinct of curiosity conquered an instinct of withdrawal. For it was an arrival with more than a touch of the grandiose. The horn sounded with the authority of the Last Trump summoning racing red jacketed, white aproned porters and a hurrying manager. A valet leaped from the seat next the chauffeur and opened the car door. Pandolfo descended majestically. He doffed a hat and shook the manager warmly by the hand. She could see him saying: “I am Sir Victor Pandolfo. My rooms of course are ready?” The manager bowed low. There also descended from the car another occupant, a young man, apparently about thirty, with a gaunt dark face and a curiously shrunken figure, who stood patiently behind the great man until the latter, with a flourish introduced him to the manager. The young man saluted courteously. Pandolfo lingered, obviously expressing his admiration of the mountainembosomed spot. He seemed to take a possessive pride
in it, as though it were a purchased estate which he was seeing for the first time. The dusk was gathering. The tabled terraces and the gravelled road were deserted. In order to improve his view, he marched into the centre of the road and swept the amphi theatre. And then, of course, he saw her, lone figure on the balcony against the hotel facade. Hat in hand he flung up both arms in greeting. She could do nothing less than nod him a discreet welcome. His voice rose clear through the still evening air.
“You dine with me, of course. You and Lady Demeter if she will honor me. I have brought an offering of grouse. You can’t refuse. Quarter of an hour? Half an hour?”
“Three-quarters,” said Paula.
What else could poor woman do? She could not
bawl down, for all the world to hear, the explanation that Lady Demeter was on the regime, that the two of them had a nice little corner table to themselves far away from the orchestra, and that she had not the remotest desire to dine with him and eat his grouse. It was no use saying that she was ill and would dine in her room, for he would not believe her; besides she had a very healthy appetite. Also had not Clara, in her exasperating Barnum way spread the glad tidings of Pandolfo through the hotel? Refusal would have been silly.
“You’ll have a dinner fit for gods,” he waved a hand ground, “fit for this Paradise! Au revoir."
Clara Demeter burst into her room towards the end of her dressing.
“Pandolfo says we’re dining with him. He has brought grouse. The marvelous man thinks of everything.” “Except your regime," said Paula.
“I’d carry half a stone extra for a grouse any day of my life. Think of it! I missed them altogether last year in this wretched place and Biarritz afterwards. I thought I was going to miss them this year, too. It’s a rotten country not to breed grouse. But God’s good angel—” she stopped, catching a glint of the whimsical in Paula’s eyes. “You don’t think it ignoble of me to adore grouse?”
“There will also be the best Burgundy in the cellar.”
Lady Demeter sighed. Then she brightened.
“One only has one life,” she said.
PANDOLFO was waiting for them in the hall, at the foot of the staircase. Again he gave the air of being the owner of the house, the universal host. A man of distinction: Paula was forced to admit it, as her swift woman’s glance caught the details of his appearance: the perfectly cut dinner suit moulding his strongly knit figure; the discreet onyx and diamond studs, links and white waistcoat buttons; the urbane defiance of fashion in his low shirt collar; the wavy thick bronze hair, sleektrimmed, brushed back without a parting, away from his broad forehead; the laughing dark eyes; the heavy accentuated features; the strong, yet delicate and nervous hands extended in their familiar southern gesture of welcome. She caught a reluctant breath of admiration. For all his fan-faronading and gasconading and general impossibility from her narrow social point of view, he was an intensely virile creature; a man; a big man; a thing of male muscle and brain and passions; a man whom no woman not quite sure of herself might be acquitted before the court of her own soul for fearing with cold terror, were she never so valiant.
He received them, all smiles, courtesy and charm. His manners were unimpeachable, though his manner was flamboyant. In kindly fashion he brought into the group the twisted man whom Paula had seen from her balcony.
“Mr. Uglow—Gregory Uglow—my partner, my second self.”
Paula regarded the young man with no considerable interest. In his conventional dinner-suit he no longer gave the impression of deformity that had struck her when he had crept, somewhat painfully, out of the car. Perhaps one shoulder was the least little bit higher than the other. There had been no lameness noticeable in the few steps of his approach. Yet there was an indefinable indecision in his gait. He had fine, ascetic features, the swarthy skin drawn tight over the cheek-bones, such as one sees in post-Raphael and Spanish pictures of monks and martyrs. He had sad brown eyes like a dog’s. Black and flashing in his sensitive face, they might have proclaimed him a poet, a genius and betrayed an eager spirit wasting the frail body to decay; but they were just brown, kindly, dull, patient.
Paula smiled on him.
“You came by car? A pleasant journey?”
“Delightful. Sir Victor was all for doing the eight hundred kilometres in a stretch. He’s made of iron. But—” he smiled and shot a swift glance at Pandolfo— “he recognizes that other people aren’t. So we stopped the night en route.”
“I should just think so,” cried Paula. “It’s lunatic to go eight hundred kilometres—that’s five hundred miles, isn’t it?—without a break.”
“It’s his way,” replied Uglow, gently.
She was about to make a tart retort, when she met his faithful eyes. She changed it into:—
“It’s the way of an overgrown child.”
“Isn’t that in itself a tribute?” he asked.
PANDOLFO, turning from Lady Demeter, swept them into the salle-a-manger. He had the great manner that .commands the hypnotic subservience of maîtres d’hotel and waiters. He had come to Renes-les-Eaux, entirely unknown to the management, save for a reference to Lady Demeter, who unconsciously had built up a legend around him, and instantly he had established himself as a potentate. Soup was served. He caught the head waiter’s ,eye, and beckoned.
He gave the order for toast Melba.
“How did you know his name was Louis? I’ve been here ten days without knowing it.”
“Dear lady—the immediate establishment of human relations with those on whom you are dependent is the beginning of wisdom.”
She could imagine him establishing human relations, before dinner, with the head waiter. “I am Sir Victor Pandolfo—” “Yes, sir.” “Your name?” “Louis.” “Then Louis, now that we know each other I have brought grouse which the chef must cook well but lightly. Have you been in England?” “Yes, at the Carlton, Ritz, etc., etc.” “Then the grouse is your responsibility.” All humorous impressiveness, magnetism.
Clara Demeter caught him in the toils of her cure’s fairy tale, stripped herself reminiscently of her daily centigrams of flesh, and constituted herself his medical adviser. Paula turned to Gregory Uglow.
“You surely haven’t come for a cure?”
“Only in the sense that a holiday and new scenes are a cure. I was getting rather flattened out in London— close laboratory work, you know—and Sir Victor picked me up and carried me off at a few hours’ notice. He does sudden things like that.”
“He must be an interesting man to work with,” said Paula.
“Far more than interesting,” he replied pleasantly. He added in a low voice, “I have every reason to believe him to be the most wonderful man that ever lived.”
THERE was a note of adoration in his voice, profoundly sincere, that vibrated. A man who could compel a fellow man to such expression, must have spiritual qualities of which she had hitherto taken scant heed.
“Sometime you must give me reasons for your belief.” His face lit up. “Would you really care?”
“Of course. But not now.”
“Ah, no!” They both laughed. She liked him, his quiet voice, his gentle manner, his steady eyes. The pathos of the malady, whatever it was, that gave him his air of emaciation and distortion moved her pity. He had the thin, silky hair of the invalid. Sensitive, he read her thoughts, flushed, and, after a few moments’ shy silence, during which he crumbled his bread:—-
“I got knocked out in the war. Gassed—and other things. I was only a private. Then he came along.”
He turned swiftly from Lady Demeter.
“I’m not going to do it, Mrs. Field. I’m not. I’m not going to see my solid thews and sinews waste away under this diabolical treatment. I’m solid. Not a flabby bit on my body. Feel that!”
He braced the muscles of his arm and bent towards Paula.
“Yes. Feel it. Squeeze it. Try to hurt.”
Courtesy compelled her to lay fingers on his sleeve. It might have covered marble. He laughed triumphantly. “A bar of your own Paulinium.”
Lady Demeter pricked her ears. “Paulinium, what’s that?”
Pandolfo fell from his high estate. “You haven’t told her?” he asked, reproachfully.
“Told me what?” interjected Lady Demeter.
Paula entangled and shrinking from hurting a host’s feelings, said lamely:
“I thought it was a secret.”
“Secret? Why, the whole wide world’s ringing with it. Isn’t it, Gregory? My new metal, Lady Demeter.” He leaned back in his chair, and, in a tone of challenge: “You’ve heard of my new metal, haven’t you?”
“Well, it’s called ‘Paulinium’ after our dear lady here.”
“How idyllic!” cried Clara, her kind face beaming. “I must throw cure to the winds and drink to its success.” She raised her glass. “Grouse—Paulinium—and—where did you unearth this wine?—what a heavenly evening!” She was radiant in physical and romantic beatitude. Once a little lion had dedicated a novel to her, and she had felt the Egerian thrill. But he had proved himself afterwards to be but a poor mangy little lion of no account, incomparable with the Lion Magnificent by her side. She caught Paula’s eye and made a swift, funny little gesture with her hands, which Paula ironically interpreted as a desire to shake her.
“If such an honor had been paid me, I should have trumpeted it all over London.”
“You command a fanfare, my dear,” said Paula. “I, only a little painted thing you get out of a toy shop. Besides—as I said—I thought it was a secret.”
Pandolfo reverted to his bodily condition. Why had he thought he needed reduction in weight? A passing fancy such as any man might have. His doctor, when consulted had smiled indulgently and said a course of treatment would do him no harm. Why undergo physical discomfort to no appreciable end? Gregory Uglow, on the other hand, would derive enormous benefit from the electrifying waters of Moulins close by. Mrs. Field and himself would be merely idlers with the whole day at their common disposal. They would motor among mountains,
supreme on Alpine summits, could survey the little world and, below them.
Clara Demeter called him down again to earth by a rhapsody over the grouse and the Chambertin. She was enjoying herself prodigiously. Sir Victor was the lord of hosts. It sounded profane; but he knew what she meant.
DINNER over, they went out into the warm August night. Lady Demeter took Pandolfo by his paulinium arm and led him aside. Once more did Paula wish her friend evil. If ever woman was intent on questioning man directly about honorable matrimonial intentions, that woman was Clara Demeter. She shrugged her shoulders however and sat down by the side of the young man, Gregory Uglow. She was on the point of referring to his partnership with Pandolfo, of which she had never heard, when he anticipated her
“Mrs. Field—you’ll forgive my speakng about myself, won’t you?” he said eagerly. “But you’re so kind and sympathetic. I’ve been shivering all the evening in a sort of garment of false pretences. Sir Victor introduced me as his partner. It’s only his great big way—so as to give me a position and save my face. I’m not. I’m only his humble assistant and confidential secretary.”
Nerves somewhat on edge prompted a sharp reply.
“If you’re good enough to be called his partner, you must surely be good enough to be taken into real partnership.”
He winced as though she had uttered blasphemy.
“You don’t know what Sir Victor is—still less what I am. How could I dare to dream of such a thing?”
“He has put you into a false position, anyhow, which you yourself feel.”
“Only as regards yourself, Mrs. Field,” he replied, seriously.
“Eh?” She questioned him with quick eyes. “What have I to do with it?”
He twisted long, nervous fingers.
“It’s so impossible to explain. These personal things —well—” he moved his head in embarrassment, from side to side. .
“Well?” Paula, amused, insisted.
He thought for a moment. “You come into contact with ninety-nine human beings and, to employ scientific jargon, there’s no reaction whatever. With the hundredth there is.”
“And I’m the hundredth?”
“You are—you,” said he.
SHE smiled him a ‘‘merci” and sank back in her cane chair. Is there a woman alive, be she never so beautiful, who is not interested to learn that she has caused a reaction in the soul or nature or complex or whatever you may choose to call it, of an agreeable and painfully sincere young man. She was in rebellious mood.
“Tell me some more,” she commanded.
“About Sir Victor?”
“Lord no! About yourself. Reactions and things. The word isn’t modern jargon. It’s as old at least as Newton. I received an expensive education and still remember something about the Third Law of Motion.” “Action and reaction are equal and opposite,” he quoted. “How wonderful of you to know it.” He regarded her awe-stricken.
“If you asked me for the other two, I should be helpless. But this one always appealed to me. What happens when one thing going bang in the air meets another thing going bang in the air never interested me a bit. But—”
“But—” the young man grew suddenly fervent—“the application of the Law to emotions—their action and reaction.”
She smiled radiantly. “You mean that you can only react to a human being in the measure of that human being’s action on you.”
“So you see what I mean about the ninety-nine and the hundredth.”
She nodded, then pointed to the mountain-barred strip of sky. It was black velvet and stars and the softness of the wings of moths. The air was scented with the night-release of the perfumes of all the mountain sides. “And that?” she asked.
“I’m a poor student of science—not a poet. Besides, it’s so -difficult to translate one’s feelings into words. I’m not accustomed to it.”
“Why not begin now? Indeed you’ve already made an excellent beginning.”
He looked up at the sky, then at her, then at Pandolfo advancing with Lady Demeter, then at her again and made a little bow.
“All I can say at the present moment, is that God is very good to me.”
PAULA spent two or three scared days, ever falling into traps, with eyes wide-open. The tireless man had an inexhaustible genius for giving; like a lump of radium. As yet Paula had been powerless to refuse. The radium analogy had not occurred to her. She shrank from hurting him, as she would have shrunk from spurning a child’s gift of wilted wild-flowers. As a matter of fact, it was the
offering of a wild-flower that brought about the worst scare of all. It was one of singular beauty only found in the higher valleys of Savoy and even there rarely seen. One, Jonathan Roundbegg, a botanist acquaintance, chance-met at Renes had described it, more from the aesthetic than from the learned point of view. Said Paula, rashly:
“I should love to see one.”
Pandolfo rose to his feet. “You shall.”
Mr. Roundbegg reminded him that scientific knowledge allied to trained observation was essential to the identification of the flower. Pandolfo magnificently declared that his will would predominate over technical disability. The name? The botanist only knew the Latin one, insignificant of meaning to Savoyard mountaineers.
“If you hunt for twenty years, you’ll never find it,” said Mr. Roundbegg.
“With me,” cried Pandolfo, “Mrs. Field’s wishes are commands. Within—not twenty years—but twenty
hours I’ll lay a specimen at her feet.”
The next day he was absent. Gregory Uglow explained that he had taken the car to the Petit Saint-Bernard, with the intention of scouring the mountain sides. He had started at five in the morning.
His rash undertaking had been declared at half past nine the evening before. At five in the afternoon, Mr. Roundbegg, a prim and slightly sardonic man, stopped at Paula’s table on the terrace.
“Our friend has only half-an-hour left. He said twenty hours.”
“Sir Victor has a way of keeping his word,” said Uglow, who was taking tea with Paula and Lady Demeter.
The botanist smiled. “Still, there’s such a thing as a wild-goose chase.”
“He has been specializing in it all his life and he’s an expert,” said Uglow. He glanced at Paula and she read in his eyes something that most likely did not lie behind them. But what she interpreted or misinterpreted, such was the scare in which she dwelt, was the imputation that she was one of the wild-geese of his successful chase.
Mr. Roundbegg sat down and talked learnedly of Alpine flowers.
Clara Demeter confessed a vague passion for edelweiss, which she had once picked somewhere in Switzerland. Since her marriage she had never gone back. Poor dear Demeter hated the country. It was, he said, only a glorified gymnasium and he loathed gymnastics. And the food was detestable and he wouldn’t carry a Swiss watch for anything in the world. He would only wear an old English watch as big as a warmingpan which made him bulge indecently. On spare men bulges were curiously noticeable. Another incorrigible habit of Demeter’s was to go about with a bulky bunch of keys in his trouserpocket chained, somehow up to his waist. That caused another bulge. If cars ate apples he would go about with his pockets bulging with them as he did in the country, so that he would always be able to feed the horses, should the whim seize him to visit the stable.
She had a gen-
ius for leading the conversation, by means of connecting links from a boring topic. She took the minimum of interest in Alpine flora. All the same she had marked down Roundbegg, who was a Professor of Botany at a Midland University and an Authority kow-towed to (so Pandolfo had assured her) by the Kew Gardens people, as a new lion to be asked down to Hinsted some December weekend when there would be no flowers about.
He took out his watch, triumphant in his scepticism.
“Five more minutes.”
At that moment a Klaxon screeched and round the corner from the line of little shops, a hundred yards away, rolled the familiar touring car into the square. By the hotel Pandolfp alighted, and, his quick eyes catching the group, marched diagonally across the path towards them.
He was dusty and muddy and his white flannel trousers were an offence to the eye. One jacket pocket, torn open, hung forlorn. In spite of bravado, he limped perceptibly. He grasped a trumpery bunch of blue grey blooms, which, urtceremoniously he thrust beneath Roundbegg’s nose.
“Quite. But how the—”
“Never mind.” He pulled out his watch. “Within twenty hours?”
The botanist made graceful admission. Two or three minutes to spare. Pandolfo turned to Paula, and dropped the tender flowers, dead for all the clump of moss in which they were enveloped, into her lap. She took the poor things up and admired their lingering, delicate exquisiteness. She had to express her appreciation, and to say with, at least, conventional graciousness:
“How can I thank you?”
Roundbegg burst in: “I don’t see how you can thank a fellow who has worked a miracle.”
Pandolfo, with mock flourish, took off his hat: “My friend, from you that is praise indeed.”
Uglow, who had risen as soon as he approached, and had been watching him anxiously, took him by the arm.
“Do sit down, sir.”
The startled twist of his body—hitherto, in his exuberance, he had been conscious of the existence only of his challenger and of Paula—caused an involuntary spasm of pain to contract his features. Paula leaned forward.
“You have hurt yourself?”
He laughed, leaned on Uglow for a moment and sank into the chair.
“Botanizing on slippery precipices is a recommendable game for chamois; not for human beings.”
Then, suddenly, after a short breath or two, his head sagged and his body flopped half over the chair.
TT WAS nothing more serious than a couple of broken A ribs and a sprained ankle. A fortnight’s absolute rest, said the doctor, and he would be on his feet again.
“But, Mesdames,” said he, to the two ladies, who forcedly, had to constitute themselves his female protectors, “if he will lie tranquil and submit to the kindly processes of Nature, all will be well. But, avec ce temperament fougueux—”
With his tempestuous temperament, anything might happen. They and his friend Monsieur Uglow must exercise their powers of restraint. A constitution of iron and a will of adamant alone had enabled him to walk the ten kilometres from the scene of his accident to the Petit Saint-Bernard where he had left the car. It was not a simple promenade, those mountains. He, a Savoyard himself, knew the mountains like his pocket, and recognized the spot where the accident had happened. Only a madman would have adventured down the declivity. It was almost perpendicular. And to descend it for what? To find a flower—the little orlaie. It was, one might say beautiful. It was rare and only existent on precipitous slopes. Certainly not worth a man endangering his life. Sir Pandolfo, losing his footing must have rolled about fifty feet. And all he had to say was that if he hadn’t rolled, he wouldn’t have found the orlaie. How he managed to crawl up again defeated the doctor’s power of divination. He implored the ladies and his friend Monsieur Uglow to keep him quiet. Meanwhile he had telephoned for a trained nurse.
HERE was another complication for a harassed woman. How could she disdain a man who not only had risked his neck and his reputation for infallibility in order to find her a rubbishy weed, but had travelled back to her with broken ribs, and, his romantic mission accomplished, fallen at her feet like any tin-covered knight out of Sir Thomas Mallory? It was touching. Clara Demeter wept tears so fat and sentimental that Paula, lest she should do her a mischief, fled from her presence. Her eyes were dry, dry almost to burning; but she felt the pathos of the idiotic adventure, all the same. Sheer humanity compelled her to visit him, as soon as possible, under Clara’s sheltering wing. Ribs set, torso bandaged and nurse from Aix-les-Bains in attendance, he professed vast comfort, ease and happiness. Paula chided him gently for his exploit. So much, after all, for so little. Continued on page 38
Continued from page 35
“To gratify your slightest wish,” said he, “I would willingly break every bone in my body.”
Could lover say more? She knew that, in a sense, it was not rodomontade. It was sincere. His words implied a challenge to dare him to further deeds in her service. From one point of view she realized herself as the object of a passion anachronistically romantic. That sort of thing dated back to the quattrocenti Italians, when it was the mode for lovers to commit divine lunacies, such as freezing themselves to death, or sitting on glowing braziers in order to glorify their Mistress. She caught at a memory: Maurice Hewlett’s story of “Ceceo and the Burning Coal.” The situation became grotesque. All the more grotesque because it was governed by an element of grim reality. She knew from her knowledge of the man’s will and self-exaltation that, were she to bid him fetch her a handful of snow from the summit of the highest peak of the Alpine range, whatever the unprofitable spot might be, she would get it—preserved in a paulinium lined thermos-flask of his own invention, with an inscribed plate on the outside. And there could be no question of the genuineness of the handful. To that credit of him was she irresistibly compelled. Fraud could have no part in so supreme a self-creation. She admitted to herself her infinite faith in his integrity. Her talks with Gregory Uglow, the fervid ingenuous, would have swept away any lingering doubts. Naked and hungry, said Uglow, Pandolfo had taken him in; also a gassed and battered wreck of the war. He exalted his benefactor to godhead, giving chapter and verse for his faith. During the first few days of Pandolfo’s lying up, she saw much of the idolatrous young man.
SHE learned the meagre facts of his history. That he was of gentle birth she had realized from her first moment of speech with him. No vagrom hawking of wares about his parentage. He came of an old Suffolk family, as poor as church mice and almost as extinct in these hygienic days. His father, a widower, had been hard put to it to send him to Cambridge, with a science scholarship from his local grammar school, in 1913. The war came. The father and his two sons were drawn into the whirlpool, from which Gregory alone came out alive. His younger brother had beep properly looked after, and provided for at Eton by his uncle, Sir Ponsonby Uglow, a baronet of James the First’s creation. Sir Ponsonby had also died, however, during the war leaving no issue, and his widow, apparently an extremely unpleasant woman, followed him soon after, having made a will whereby a horde of hungry German relations were the sole beneficiaries.
“A horrible creature!” cried Lady Demeter, when the story was told to her. “I knew all about her. A Boche. She used to go about her grounds flashing signals with an electric torch, until—who was the charming fellow who had the Eastern Command at the time?—you know—he played the banjo so wonderfully—and he married a girl called Muriel —Muriel—I’ll be forgetting my own name next. Anyhow he stepped in and stopped her. And she drank herself to death on creme de menthe or ether. Yes, I know all about her. Far better dead.” These parenthetic and possibly apocryphal details formed no part of the young man’s story. He merely stated the fact of the lady’s demise and the testimentary disposition of her fortune.
Paula wrinkled a puzzled brow.
“It’s rather hard to follow. So many people seem to be dead. But if your uncle Sir Ponsonby died without a son to inherit, then of course you—”
He interrupted quickly.
“My father had the title for a month and my poor brother for a week.”
“How is that? You called him your younger brother—•”
HE EXPLAINED, in his gentle manner. The Imp of Mischance had attended him since birth, until Sir Victor had come along with his potent exorcism. Only after he was born did his father marry his mother. It had been a wild and romantic affair. She had been a McCairn of Cairness, and dwelt in an ancestral stronghold somewhere in the region of
Eddrachillis Bay in Sutherlandshire. The family could trace a descent, marred by grievous misalliances on its own part, to Malcom the Second, and therefore, when Simon Uglow, on a Highland walking tour, and bearer of brave letters of introduction, visited them, they received the guest, at first, with splendid Highland hospitality, but, after a while, regarded with indignant anger, the embryo practitioner of physic, son of an upstart baronet of James the First’s creation—James the First—a mushroom—who had the audacity to demand the daughter’s hand in marriage. In lofty irony they questioned him as to marriage settlements. When they found that he could only settle on the lady his name and his youth and the golden prospects of his medical genius, they threw him out of the house with all the observances of high-bred courtesy.
Now the lady, not being the descent of Pictish kings for nothing, took matters into her own hands. Before young Uglow had time to realize the ignominy of his expulsion, he found himself in a sailing boat, with Elinor McCairn at the tiller, half way across the North Inch. Thus, the wind prospering, they reached the Butt of Lewis, perhaps one of the spots on the earth the least subjected to the vigilance of Divine Providence. For a couple of months they lived idyllically, although of necessity frugally, in the summer weather of a peculiarly glorious summer. They dwelt in a fisherman’s hut and lived on oatmeal, mackerel, and illicit whisky.
Then, one fine day, a clumsy old paddle-wheeled, steamer hovered around the point. A boat put off, and landed a determined party of angry gentlemen, who beat Simon Uglow and threw him into the sea and by main force carried off the erring Elinor to the steamer.
In some such form did Paula reconstruct the romantic tale from Gregory Uglow’s shy and sensitive confidences. He had heard the main grim facts from his father. Now and again his mother,, when he was a little boy, had stirred his imagination with picturesque details of their castaway life.
Paula gathered that they stuck away a dumb and unconfessing Elinor in a turret chamber of Cairn Castle, until, to the consternation of the Family, the wretched Gregory squeaked his first distaste of a cold world. Then they had to send in a hurry for Simon, who poor, though reprehensible lad, had no idea of what had been happening. They were married outright and sent south with the Family malison. According to Scottish law the child was legitimatized and could inherit Scottish estates. But English law wagged its ponderous head. So did Sir Ponsonby Uglow, his brother’s senior by many years, wag his, in reprobation. SO did his German wife who hated the proud Scottish lady at first sight. Wherefore it came eventually to pass that Dr. Simon’s younger son, heir, after him, presumptive to the baronetcy, found favour in Sir Ponsonby’s eyes, while Gregory of the bond sinister had to fend for himself.
DISCHARGED from hospital and demobilized, he faced a world not clamoring for crippled young gentlemen with a smattering of science. The labor market resented the survivors of the war. The Trades Unions would not have them. The former were the pitiless “Haves”; the latter the contemptible “Have Nots.” On all sides they felt upon them cold eyes wondering why they weren’t decently dead. Thus was Gregory Uglow brought to regard himself as an intruder in the land of living folk; the land which its rulers were trying to make fit for heroes who had stayed at home to live in. Gregory might have been unreasonable in his rebellion against existing things; but he was also hungry and hopeless. Especially one night when he sat on a bench on the Thames Embankment somewhere in the neighborhood of Cheyne Walk.
It was then that the miracle happened. In the moonlight before him passed a burly yet jaunty figure carrying a paper parcel under his arm. Hardly had the man proceeded a couple of yards when, from some break in the parcel an object dropped to the ground. Gregory picked it up, regarded it for some seconds first in surprise, then with interest. He followed and hailed the passer-by.
“Your pardon, sir—but you’ve dropped something.”
Pandolfo turned and thanked him and said whimsically: “Why should you
worry to restore me this bit of stone?” “Because,” said Gregory, “as far as I can judge in the moonlight, it’s a mineralogical specimen and may be valuable.” “What the devil do you know about mineralogical specimens?” cried Pandolfo, looking the shabby young man up and down. “Here. Tell me what you think it is.”
He drew a small electric torch from his pocket and flashed it on the lump in his left palm. Gregory, amused by the encounter, examined it. A memory of old laboratory days fixed upon such another lump, the second to the right on a third shelf. He laughed, in spite of his conviction that the world wished him dead and out of the way.
“At a venture, I should say it was mispikel.”
Pandolfo deliberately flashed the torch in his face. “Young man,” said he, “let us sit down and have a talk. One doesn’t pick up an expert mineralogist on a Thames Embankment bench every night in the week. It’s not mispikel, though the greatest authority in London, only a quarter of an hour ago, said it was. So you err in the best of company.”
“What is it then?” Gregory asked.
“Ah! That’s what the Professor would give anything to know. I believe he cut a hole in this brown paper parcel, so that a specimen should fall out which he’ll be able to pick up later between his house and mine.”
Whereupon he sat down with a courteous wave of the hand to the place beside him and deliberately retied his parcel. His glance fell upon an ugly split in a shoe.
“If you will forgive the indelicacy of my question,” said he*, “may I ask whether you find the pursuit of mineralogy lucrative?”
Gregory rose—or the spirit of his Scottish mother within him—
“That’s a question I’m afraid I can’t answer. I wish you good evening.”
Pandolfo leaped up and lifted restraining hands.
“Young man, to take offence is, often, to lose opportunity. I know all about you. You’re a gentleman. You’re a man of scientific attainment and you’re down and out. And I’m damned if you’re not hungry.”
As though conjured up by Pandolfo’s magic, an empty taxi cab purred gently by. Pandolfo hailed it.
“Get in. You’re coming with me. You’ll find me as proud as you are and twice as hungry. I’ve no use for people who don’t do what I tell them.”
Practically to avoid physical encounter, in which he would be worsted, and yielding to the stranger’s cheery and fullblooded mastery, Gregory suffered himself to be pitched into the taxi-cab.
“It’s more or less only round the corner; but I see that you’ve walked enough.” Gregory had a confused vision of a great house, and soft carpets and pictures and bits of statuary gleaming in the discreet light; of a long passage; of a vast octagonal shaped room, a medley of everything from comfortable leathern chairs and luxurious writing desk to deal trestle tables strewn with weird objects and appliances and blue-prints; of walls hung with a jumble of rare engravings and photographs of machinery. He noticed a cage of love-birds at the far end. A man-servant had preceded them switching the lights on the way.
“Supper here,” cried Pandolfo. “Ham, chicken, beef, tongue, cold pie, everything you can lay your hands upon. And a bottle of champagne.” He thrust the young man into a chair. “My name’s Victor Pandolfo. I’ve invented everything from a machine to dry a woman’s hair to an instrument for telling all about a submarine ten knots away.”
Gregory had vaguely heard of him. Also he remembered having seen his name—a striking one—in a list of honors.
“Sir Victor—I think,” said he.
“Why think when you know? Thought is a force that should be economized.” He laughed. “Well, that’s all about me. What about yourself?”
IT WAS only later when fortified by good food and wine and the obvious gladness of his host at seeing him eat and drink, that he plucked up courage to tell his story. He confessed to previous hunger and weariness; to the open air bed
that awaited him on the Thames Embankment. After the manner of a proud, shy man, he told his story backwards, under the vivid questionings of Pandolfo, who never rested until he had traced him beyond his birth. Smatterings of knowledge he declared, were of no use to him; he must know things from root to branch. Eventually he rang a bell violently. The man servant appeared. Pandolfo flung up a hand.
“Prepare a bedroom at once for Mr. Uglow. Mr. Uglow is my new private secretary. He arrived late and lost his luggage, so fit him out with what is necessary. Come back and report when all is ready!”
The servant gone, he turned and beamed on the bewildered young man who stammered out:—
“You’re very kind—but I don’t understand. Is it a jest on your part?”
“I have a vast sense of humor,” replied Pandolfo, magnificently. “But I would pray you believe I don’t condescend to the type of pleasantry that was practised on one Christopher Sly—if that’s what you’re thinking of. If I say you’re my private secretary, you. are my private secretary.” The young man objected, blankly. He knew not short-hand, nor had he ever fingered the keys of a typewriter. Pandolfo grew impatient. He had a score of shorthand -typists in his employ. Said Gregory:
“Then what could I do?”
“Everything I tell you. Train yourself to be Elisha to my Elijah. You’ll do it. I’ve never made a mistake in my life. I know when men are lying and when they’re telling the truth. You’re enough of a man of the world to recognize that most people would attribute my action in taking a tramp off a bench on the Thames Embankment and starting him with a commencing salary of four hundred pounds a year, and all found, as my confidential secretary and assistant, to softening of the brain. But my brain’s extravagantly hard and alert. Yet, my young friend, a warning once and for all. Should you prove me wrong—should you let me down—” his eyes suddenly glittered like the points of the daggers of some reprehensible Neapolitan ancestor—“it were better for you not to have been born.” “Perhaps,” said Gregory, rising, “I had better go back to the Embankment.” Said Pandolfo: “I owe my success in life to a lack of the gambling instinct. The degraded word sportsmanship—except in its sense of giving everybody a fair deal—which is mere common honesty— has always appealed to me as the shibboleth of the unintelligent man trying to justify himself.” In his quick way he threw open the doors of the octagonal room and flung out indicating hands. “The Embankment, and God knows what. Bed, ease, possible fortune, but in the meantime a hell of a life.”
All the pride in the young man—again the Highland mother whose high-born kinsmen (as in the classical case of Annabell Lee) took her far away from the Butt of Lewis—once more revolted.
THE situation was not the normal and modern to which his mind was attuned. It contained something of the exotic, Arabian Nitesqu.e. A vague flavor of Stevenson’s story of “The Young Man with the Cream Tarts” mounted to his brain. He had stepped from the commonplace across the threshold of the unreal. Here, in ordinary dinner-suit, as courteous a host as one could wish to meet, stood a gentleman, who, to his disordered fancy—remember the transition from starvation to surfeit and great indulgence to some derangement of faculties—seemed a sort of djinn, mocking behind his kindness, threatening behind his mansuétude. Idiotically he conjectured a battle between the Devil and his immortal soul. He withstood the shock of a dynamic moment. Then, stalwart though unnerved, he reached out a thin hand: —
“I can’t thank you enough for your extraordinary kindness, Sir Victor— but—”
A tornado of a Pandolfo slammed the open main door and turning swift, took the young man’s lean shoulders in his nervous grasp, and threw back his head and laughed out loud.
“You damned young fool. Didn’t I say I never bet except on a certainty? Go to bed right away. Clear out. You’re here in this room to-morrow at nine o’clock.” He pressed an electric bell and hung on to it far beyond the time of an ordinary master’s summons. He seemed to stand
there, slightly bent, triumphantly bantering, for five minutes. Then:
“Another drink? A nightcap? No? Well—good-night. You’ll find an agitated Jenks or Binks or whatever he calls himself awaiting you. If you haven’t all you can possibly want, I’ll electrocute him to-morrow. Give him your orders for bath and breakfast. And”—he pointed a finger—“nine o’clock here to-morrow.”
THAT, according to Paula’s co-ordination of many talks with him—some casual, others of more deliberate confidence, was the history of the first relations between Gregory Uglow and Pandolfo.
“I was as powerless as a sailing ship before a typhoon,” laughed Gregory.
“That’s all very well for metaphor,” said Paula. “But, coming to bed-rock, suppose you hadn’t made good?”
His mild eyes lit up.
“Who couldn’t help making good under Sir Victor’s inspiration? Even a worm wouldn’t try to turn. At first I thought myself the greatest fraud under heaven; for, practically, I had forgotten all I had ever learned about mineralogy. I owed everything to a lucky hit, the trick of memory that recalled the specimen on the laboratory shelf. But that gripped his imagination. I must be a wonderful fellow . . I’ve worked night and day, for years, in order to live up to the reputa-
“Has he ever told you his history?” Paula asked.
“No. Has he told you?”
“Only a very little. I should gather it was as romantic as yours.”
Meanwhile Pandolfo fretted, not oyer his broken ribs, but over the inaction which they necessitated. He had arrived with the intention of whirling Paula all over the length and breadth and height of Savoy. He had dreamed of picnics by water-falls and wondrous lunches at world-famed restaurants, of moonlight walks and irruptions into the pearl and diamond shops of Aix-les-Bains. And there he was, laid flat on his back for heaven knew how long with nothing to give her but a grateful smile when she looked in once a day to see how he was faring. Of course he sent his man, his chauffeur, Gregory and sometimes his nurse to buy up the flower and fruit and chocolate supply of Renes-les-Eaux. Both Paula and Lady Demeter had to stack their overflow along the corridor. But he chafed at such limited powers. He caused Gregory to deplete the little bookshop of its stock of detective fiction, which he read voraciously.
The nurse pleased him. She was small, trim, middle-class, efficient. He absorbed her into his entourage. He vaunted her as the most perfect nurse in the universe, just as though he had manufactured her himself. Slyly he obtained from an unsuspecting Clara the names and addresses of a fashionable dressmaker and a milliner in Aix. He sent his car to Aix to fetch them. They were shown into a room occupied by a sick gentleman and a demure nurse.
“I want you to make this lady,” said he, “the most beautiful dress you can and a hat to match. Will you kindly take her measurements.”
Of the three dumbfounded females, the milliner first recovered her nerve.
“But, Monsieur,” said she, “one does not measure ladies for hats.”
“But, Sir Victor,” said the nurse, “I don’t want the things.”
“You’re going to have them,” said he. The nurse gave way, torn between mirth and disconcertment, and fled for succour to the only strong woman she knew of in her immediate vicinity.
“Mrs. Field, please tell me. What can I do?”
Paula took the girl by her arm and sailed into Pandolfo’s room, where she found two bemused slaves, sincerely convinced that Monsieur’s simple request was the most reasonable and commonplace action of a perfectly reasonable and commonplace man. They would send over on the morrow, all their models and all their hats. Madame (the Nurse) had only to choose. For the rest, as far as the dress was concerned, fittings could be arranged either there or at Aix, according to Madame’s convenience.
“And, my dear Mrs. Field,” said he, “if you will be so gracious as to give Nurse Williams the benefit of your experience, I shall be more than ever your devoted servant.”
“But, Sir Victor,” cried the nurse, “you don’t understand. I don’t want Paris
gowns and hats. When do you think I’d have the chance of wearing them?”
“Precisely,” said Paula coldly, “when?” He puffed and waved a cigarette airily. “Biarritz, when she has done with me. She needs a month’s holiday. I’ll see to it. I have a dozen friends there who will give her a good time. A word from me and she’ll find a score of motor cars waiting for her at the station. Mesdames—” he addressed the purveyors of frippery—“It is understood. To-morrow all that you can display. Also if you know of a linger—” “Mais, moi-meme, Monsieur—” the milliner broke in.
“It is perfect,” said Pandolfo.
“I’m glad you think so,” said Paula.
SHE marshalled the three women out of the room. The nurse, distraught, almost fell upon her. She didn’t in the least want to go to Biarritz, although she knew that Sir Victor’s friends must be perfectly nice people. Of course she would love a holiday. She hadn’t had a week off for over a year; but she would like to spend it in Cornwall. Her father was a solicitor in Bodmin with a large family. She yearned to see them.
“Haven’t you told him about all that— in the ordinary course of gossip between nurse and patient?”
“No,” said the little nurse. “You don’t need talk to Sir Victor. He talks to you.” “Besides,” she added, “I can’t accept it. It’s wonderfully generous of Sir Victor— but I really can’t.”
“You shan’t if you don’t want to,” said Paula. She led the way down the corridor to the landing. There was a cane seat by the side of the lift-cage, on which she invited the nurse to join her. There was another a few yards off, by the side of the staircase, to which she motioned the two other women. Pandolfo had put them all into an idiotic position. Paula had to co-ordinate remote points of view.
That of Pandolfo indubitably guileless, thinking only of showering his bounty in the most dazzling way possible on this pleasant and highly efficient little nurse.
That of the tradeswomen, compelled by their peculiar experience, to the logical conclusion that an English milord had fallen in love with his nurse—and
what more natural?—and desired to set her up in a manner befitting his quality. On their faces she read their souls prognostics of a dozen dresses and twenty hats, to say nothing of silk stockings and diaphanous etceteras. Their joint vision embraced at least a thousand pounds sterling.
That of Nurse Williams herself, a clean-run, virtuous young Englishwoman, overwhelmed by a generosity monstrously absurd. In the direct, modern way, she said:
“If he had been silly dear Mrs. Field, like lots of other men—and tried to make love to me, I could have understood and dealt with it—I’ve been nursing for nine years and know how to take care of myself—but he hasn't. I assure you— not that—” she flicked finger and thumb. “And he’s such a dear. If he’s not doing something for somebody else, you, Lady Demeter, Mr. Lglow, his chauffeur, his valet, he’s perfectly miserable”—and so on and so forth.
Paula’s own point of view did not matter. She held herself gloriously aloof. She made quick work of the tradeswoman. They could see that Monsieur, being a man, knew nothing about anything. It would be w'aste of time to bring out their entire stock in trade to Renes. There was a far simpler way. As soon as the Nurse could leave her patient, she would accompany her to Aix and together they would choose the present that, out of gratitude for services, Monsieur desired to make. Paula had a dignified and commanding way with her. The lift disappeared downwards with two impressed though somewhat obfusticated vendors of vanities.
PAULA marched back to the sickroom. Nurse Williams followed her, and took refuge on the balcony. There was a pitched battle. Paula set out tersely the nurse’s point of view.
“I don’t care,” he cried, “what her point of view is. It’s wrong. I want her to have what she’ll never have again in her life—unless she happens to marry a rich man. I want her to have a month of the best, with pretty clothes and champagne and ease and luxury. She deserves it,
doesn’t she? The little fool doesn’t know what she’s refusing. The Blakes -re there. General and Lady Burgoyne, the—the Stonor-Mertons, Mrs. Withers—I met you at her luncheon party at the Carlton. They’re as respectable as the front pews in a Parish Church. You don’t suppose I’d send the child away without seeing she was looked after.”
“She’s not of their world,” said Paula. “She’s a darned sight too good for it. But it’s the best I can do. She’s going to Biarritz. I’ve set my heart on it.”
“If you wriggle about like that,” said Paula, “you’ll be going to a world where there are no dressmakers and milliners, as far as I’ve heard, worth speaking about—and where, decidedly you won’t be allowed to have your own way.”
He fumed. “I should like to see the Devil who would prevent me.”
“Out of mere delicacy,” smiled Paula, conscious for the first time of a position of mastery, as she stood calm over the chained giant. “I was referring to the other place, where restrictions are more subtle.”
“You’re nimbler than I in wit,” said he. “You almost beat me the first time we met.”
“And I’ve beaten you now,” said Faula. He protested. They argued. Paula held her ground.
“Since your motives come from pure generosity, you will give Nurse Williams a month’s holiday in Bodmin and commission me to choose her a modest little outfit that won’t outrage the bosom of her family.”
“But can’t you understand, I want her to go to Biarritz?”
She wrinkled her brow. This vanity of giving seemed so childish.
“Suppose you insisted on her wearing a crown and sitting on a golden throne.” “I would, if I could afford it. I’d make her queen over the whole universal corporation of nurses. A girl like that moiling away in obscurity, with never a golden hour in her life! At any rate she’ll have a golden month.”
“Never,” cried Pandolfo.
“Then, Sir Victor”—she swept an ironic courtesy—“I regret to give you two minutes’ notice of the end of our pleasant acquaintance.”
SHE moved towards the door and turned the knob. His deep eyes were fixed on her. The battle crisis was consummated in a tense silence. Presently he beckoned her with his forefinger.
It was the first time that he had addressed her so directly. She approached the bed.
“I’m not fond of anticlimax. But to please you, the little fool shall go to Bodmin.” He held out a hand which she took in token of bargain. But he held it fast, and drew back her arm so vehemently that, in order to steady herself, she had to put the other hand on the edge of the bed. And during this momentary nearness of their faces, he whispered so that his voice should not reach the balcony where an anxious and alert young woman was stationed.
“And you—won’t you accept everything, heart and soul and body that I have to give? You know that I’m the only man for you in the wide world. You’ve got to marry me. You know you have.”
At that moment, Nurse Williams, who had heard the preparatory clicking of the door-latch and become aware, as she thought, of the cessation of talk, modestly entered the room. The queer attitude of the couple could bear but one interpretation. She uttered a little gasp and bolted back to the balcony. The gasp broke the spell. Paula freed herself from Pandolfo’s relaxed grip and half consciously rubbed her wrist. For all his broken ribs he could exert uncommon physical strength. They regarded each other foolishly.
“I’m afraid,” said Paula, “this is one of the anti-climaxes which you dislike.” Whereupon she fled.
“Nurse,” said Pandolfo, when she reappeared, in obedience to his summons, “You are going to Bodmin and I’m going to marry Mrs. Field.”
PAULA went to her own room in a condition of mind so complicated that, in the brief journey she did not seek to unravel it. Time enough when she got there. She found a pile of corres-
pondence, letters and newspapers, awaiting her. She grasped avidly at the distraction. The first letter she opened was one from her father, Mr. Christopher Veresy of Chadford Park in Gloucestershire. It was long, and in crabbed handwriting. She always skimmed her father’s letters so as to seize the salient facts indicated by the hieroglyphics, reserving full deciphering for half an hour of leisure. Now, the salient facts indicated a tale of dreadful woe. There was something about a scoundrel called Monte Dangerfield in the city, a rigmarole about Patagonian Eldorados—it might have been Peruvian Bonanzas, but the first seemed the better guess; a wail of ruin; Chadford Park would have to go; the words “a flat in Putney” were written with the legibility of despair, and, also, at first sight decipherable, was the intimation to his dearest Paula that, as far as he could see, the continuance of her allowance, was a financial impossibility from a heartlessly robbed victim who had just escaped bankruptcy by the skin of his teeth. The last words were printed. Mr. Veresy scorned imagination in the use of metaphor.
Paula put down the letter, somewhat dazed by the apparent loss of half her • modest income. Mechanically she pulled about the rest of her correspondence. Beneath the pile lay a telegram. It came from A.ix-les-Bains. The text ran: “Famous for ham and bottle.”
It was only after much holding of throbbing temples that she realized it was Spencer Babington’s cryptic and, from his point of view, entirely unhumorous announcement of the awful, worldconvulsing secret that he had been offered the appointment of British Minister to Czecko-Slovakia, of which, as all the world knows, the capital is Prague.
If, in the circumstances above detailed, she yielded herself, ever so little, to the hysterical, who can blame her?
THERE had been Veresys of Chadford in Gloucestershire from time immemorial. Legend brought the first Veresy over with the Conqueror. The family had to refer to Domesday Book and then skip two or three centuries. Anyhow the first authentic ancestor had built the castle of Chadford (oí which a wing and a trace of moat still remained) towards the end of the fourteenth century. It was a descent good enough for honest and unpretentious folk. It was on record in the archives that had it not been for the premature death of Godfrey de Veresy, slain by a miscreant arrow through the eye, at the very beginning of the Battle of Tewkesbury, the House of York would have been wiped out of existence, and the evils that overspread a non-Lancastrian kingdom averted for ever. The Manuscript was written in Monkish Latin by no less a person than the Prior of Chadford Priory (later razed to the ground by Henry VIII.) and Godfrey de Veresy’s confessor; and therefore its accuracy was unimpeachable. Around Godfrey de Veresy blazed the glory of the family. For succeeding generations to attempt to outdo him in achievement was regarded as sacrilege. It was (according to Paula’s humorous irony) an article of family pride that for nearly five hundred years not one single member had condescended to distinguish himself. God had given them the Keep of Chadford, which, owing to the fruitfulness of broad acres, evolved itself gradually into the amenity of Chadford Park. The whole end and aim of the House had been to keep a Veresy at Chadford. Never till now had there been a hint of failure.
Paula could take a humorous view of her ancestry. But through her veins ran the blood of all those to whom the crumbling grey donjon had been a profane Rock of Ages. The possible sale of Chadford was a desecration and the poet’s nightmare. Chaos had really come again.
The broad acres had long, long since vanished from the family grip. But a hard-headed Veresy or two had engaged in the India trade a century ago, and reconstituted the fortunes of the family. Her grandfather had been a director of the Great Western Railway. Her father, who had started an elegant life as a lieutenant in the Dragoon Guards, a position which he surrendered on coming into his estate, she had always considered a man of ample means, in spite of disgruntled comments on the dreadful condition of the modern world in which no gentleman (damme!—his oaths were
mellow) would be permitted to exist. She had passed her young days in the case of a great establishment. On her marriage he had made no settlements, but had offered a generous allowance which he increased slightly on her widowhood. Of his more recent grumblings she took no more heed than of those of any other comfortable gentleman of his class, Lord Demeter for instance, who still managed to keep a staff of servants, a few motor-cars and an excellent cellar of port. The ruin of the Veresys was incredible.
What had Myrtilla been thinking about? Myrtilla was her elder sister, a confirmed spinster with a hard head and a clock-work organ that went by the name of a heart, who had taken charge of Chadford and Mr. Veresy after the death of their mother some years ago. She wandered round with keys and account books and verified to an ounce the household consumption of meat. Chadford Park was a house run on the scientific lines of a Swiss hotel. Comfort prevailed, but prodigality was sternly checked. No man less than Mr. Veresy less wasted his substance in riotous living. Nor, mild, elderly country gentleman, would he have known how to riot, even had he the inclination. Yet apparently what Myrtilla saved at the bung, he let out lavishly at the spigot.
PAULA deciphered the letter and read and re-read it carefully. To woman of the world it told an old story. Unknown to Myrtilla, her father, afflicted by income-tax, rates, depreciation of securities and such-like pestilences of the post-war world, had been speculating heavily. A groggy insurance company of which he was a director had collapsed and he had to obey the summons for unpaid-up shares. It was then, she gathered that Monte Dangerfield had sprung up like a god out of the financial machine. She had heard of Monte Dangerfield little to his advantage. She
had met him and liked him even less than his reputation. Till this moment she had been unaware that her father knew him. But her father was just the sort of man for whom Monte Dangerfield was always looking. And, being on the directorate of various stodgy or crippled companies, he was very easy to find.
She recalled the gentle pomposity with which he would announce his journey to London to attend a Board meeting. Before it was pulled down, he always stayed at Burton’s Hotel in Brook Street, because it was a gentleman’s hotel and the valet who had been there for thirty years knew his ways like his own manservant. She used to picture the kindly, white-moustached ex-lieutenant of Dragoon-Guards, sitting with other solemnities at a green leather table and listening to glib secretary and chairman rattling off figures of which he had not the least comprehension, and voting, with sturdy faith on Authority, as he had voted during a brief tenure of a seat in Parliament. And now, Monte Dangerfield had got hold of him and flashed Patagonian Eldorados before his impecunious eyes, and had raked in all the remaining money in the poor desperate gentleman’s possession. There was swindling somehow, she felt sure; Monte Dangerfield indubitably had not lost by the crash of Patagonian Eldorados; and she was aware that he had taken good care to render himself immune from anything like criminal prosecution. She had but to face facts.
APART from Mr. Veresy’s change of • fortune—as the prospective tenant of a flat in Putney he loomed a pathetic figure—there was also the cold horror of the passing of Chadford Park into the possession of the dreadful people who nowadays were buying up venerable seats; people who painted old oak panelling yellow and green to make it more cheerful-like, and chopped down secular trees and cut up sacred lawns in
order to build garages adequate for their fleet of motor-cars and replaced mediaeval donjons by casino-like wings in order to provide dancing halls for their young; who defiled the place with agonizing vowel-sounds; wore diamond tiaras in their weekly baths and broke the hearts of family butlers. Thus pessimistically ran Paula’s thoughts under the pressure on her temples of fingers like those of Death.
She had taken it as a matter of course that Chadford Park would eventually go to her cousin, one Edward Veresy, now soldiering in Iraq. Fortunately or unfortunately, an ancient entail had been cut off some seventy years ago; but to dispose of it, by testament, other than to a Veresy had been a sacrilege beyond human contemplation. There was also a second-cousin, one Vincent Veresy, who was a house-master at one of the great public schools. There were other Veresys too, de par le monde. Individually none were opulent; but couldn’t they all club together and secure a Veresy and the heirs male of his body as the occupant of Chadford Park? Something must be done; otherwise it would appear as though the Almighty who had cared for them for centuries, had suddenly grown too busy •—certainly there had never been so complicated a world—to think of them any more and, in Gallic idiom, had planted them there. The Veresys Godforsaken at last! It was the sublimation of the forlorn.
And then, attendant on these soulcompelling sentiments rode sordid personal anxiety. Her husband, gallant fellow, had left but little. That little had been doubled by her father’s allowance; she had been forced to prudent management in order to keep up her flat in Basil Mansions, dress becomingly and take her modest place in the world to which she belonged. Now, her income reduced by half, what could she do? She stared at a blank wall.
If a woman is an inconsiderable little person, she can, in such circumstances do many things. She can migrate from Knightsbridge to Turnham Green; she can run up her own little simple gowns; she can attune herself to whist-drives and other ingenuous pastimes of her neighbours. She can give inexpensive entertainments where the company sit on the floor while a young futurist makes the tea and a callow anarchist spreads the bread and butter. At a pinch she can strew the room with packets of gaspers and not care whether they are pocketed. Or she can take life very seriously and read Tolstoi and Nietsche and Freud and Mrs. Sidney Webb, and throw herself into Movements and go about lecturing and grow very intense and raddled and interestingly discontented. Or she can betake herself to a dear little workman’s cottage in a Suffolk village, all chintz and hollyhocks, and marry the curate. There is no end to her potential activities. But for a woman of regal beauty, to whom queenly attire seems but an apanage of Nature, who has commanded since her entry into the world the world’s ungrudging homage, the problem of poverty is not quite so simple.
Of course she could continue her small literary career. But being out of society how could she contribute her social journalistic column? To attend parties professionally and chronicle the names of guests and the description of women’s frocks and jewels was not within the realm of her philosophy. She had the pretty wit that shot folly as it flew; and she had to see it flying. She might also write another novel. .. . The ground-work for one had been in her head for some time. She sighed in despair. Her literary earnings, no matter from what point of view she considered them were only pinmoney—an evening dress and a hat or two and a necessary assortment of silk stockings.
To take Clara Demeter into counsel was to turn dubiety into the channels of exasperation. According to her, the only course of sanity would be to marry Pan dolf o. But she didn’t want to marry Pandolfo. He was too dynamic; in spite of fascinating childishness, much more a force than a human being. He had laid grip on everything in her save her heart. Both instinct and affection bade her take the first train to Chadford and support Myrtilla in the administration of filial comfort. But that would be flight from Continued on page 64
Continued from page 40
Pandolfo, against which her pride revolted.
MEANWHILE common courtesy ordained a reply to the ham and bottle telegram. She scribbled “Congratulations” on a form and sent it down to the concierge. Then she wondered whether Spencer would not be scared to death by the possibility of the divination of his secret through her unguarded expression leading to the further disintegration of Europe. She laughed—and there was a tender quality in her laughter which surprised her. She had reached that stage of feminine philosophy which propounds the theory that no man, be his years ever so many, has ever grown up. Women mature into ripe wisdom, and childish things fall from them like withered blossoms; but the man, to change metaphor, is never weaned from the bottle of his babyhood. What more irresponsible infant lived than her father? Had not her husband been the everlasting boy? What woman could exhibit, like Pandolfo, the turbulent vanity of extreme youth? What woman over thirty could seek mothering shelter with the mute pathos of the latest man to establish himself in her intimacy, Gregory Uglow? And finally, there was forty year old Spencer Babington creeping stealthily through a shrubbery and playing at Indians with the solemnity of an urchin of ten?
Dear, quaint, faithful old Spencer! Shelay on her bed, wrapper-clad, preparatory to dressing for dinner, and smiled at her thoughts. What a name for a publichouse: “The Ham and Bottle.”
She was certain he had seen nothing funny in the incongruous juxta position. Perhaps in his complete unhumorousness lay his charm. She had always been fond of him in an elder sisterly sort of way, regarding him as a perpetual gentle joke. Life would lack some of its sunshine if there were no Spencer to laugh at. She smiled indulgence at the memory of the maid’s pyjama story.
Simkin, the maid in question, entered in pursuit of duty. What dress would madame wear? Paula was brought back to brutal actuality. On twopence a year how could she afford the necessary. Simkin who had ministered to her wants from the far-off days preceding her marriage. The prospect of losing her lowered peculiarly dismal. Simkin was part of herself. They had grown up together at Chadford, where John Simkin had been gardener, boy and man, for half a century, like his father before him. It was his proud boast that there had been Simkins at Chadford at least as long as there had been Veresys. There was a Simkin mentioned among the men-at-arms whom Godfrey de Veresy dragged after him to the Battle of Tewkesbury; so what clearer proof could one desire? Simkin—her un-lady’s maidlike name was Gwendoline—was thin, sharp-featured and ill-favoured, although precisely neat of her person, and, to Paula’s peace of mind, she “did not hold with men.” She was civil to them, as became her station; but she regarded them as inferior beings capable of little beyond the material disturbance of a woman’s quiet life. If Paula loved them because they were children on that very account were they distasteful to Simkin. She disliked children and dogs and soldiers and motor-cars and everything that made a noise. That she should be attendant on one of the young ladies of Chadford had been her childhood’s ambition, her girlhood’s achievement, the complete satisfaction of her womanhood. She loved Paula as far as respect allowed.
PAULA, in the old aristocratic way, took the feudal attachment for granted. She too believed firmly in the secular ties of the Simkins to Chadford. There was something even stronger than blood in the bond between Simkin and herself. While Simkin dressed her, the thought occurred to her, with a tiny spasm of shock, that there were anachronisms in this world of changed values; chat the two of them represented something very old, very rare, very precious; that their relations, could they be materialized into some outer form, were fit to be preserved in some museum of prehistoric sociology. Dismissal of Simkin would be
a rupture of the two sacred traditions. It is true that Simkin had her faults. She was an inveterate gossip and would-be purveyor of tittle-tattle. She had a scarcely veiled contempt for the esoteric coquetry of woman’s daintiness.
“I wouldn’t wear these things,” she would say,' holding up diaphanieties, “not if you paid me.” In some ways she w¿s a trial. Yet Paula knew that should she choose, she could beat her with impunity about the head, just as Godfrey de Veresy in all probability did to the valet who, without the remotest desire to win glory or to die, followed him to a sticky death on Tewkesbury Field.
“I’ve lost a lot of money, Simkin,” said Paula suddenly.
“I’m very sorry, madam.”
“I’m afraid we’ll have to change our way of life.”
“Very good, madam.”
“I’ve heard of two nice cheap rooms over a butcher’s shop in Islington.”
“If you’d kindly keep still a moment, madam—”
“I’m afraid you wouldn’t like the butcher’s shop, Simkin.”
“If it’s agreeable to you, I’m sure it will be agreeable to me.”
Paula swerved and stamped her foot with an impatient laugh.
“I’m talking seriously. Things have happened. I can’t tell you about them yet. But it seems that the time’s coming when I shan’t be able to afford to have a personal maid.”
The plain, pale face grew a shade paler.
“You can’t be giving me notice, madam?”
“I’m only preparing you for the possibility. I only want to know what you think about it.”
Simkin busied herself with the folding up of garments, while her mistress gave a final polish to her nails.
“You’ve taken me all of a heap, Miss Paula,” she said at last, using instinctively the old form of address. “I don’t know what to say. All I know is that, if I left you because you couldn’t afford to pay me the same wages, or any wages at all, if it comes to that, my father would cut me out of his will. He has a tidy sum of money laid by, and I’m the only child. I should be the loser in the long run.”
“And foreigners say we English are an unemotional people!” said Paula. She went up to Simkin and touched her shoulder. A rare caress. Perhaps the only one since a day long ago, when ín her agony, Simkin’s arms had clasped her tight around, while she sobbed her heart out. “I hope it won’t come to that Gwennie, we’ll try to stick together.” Here, on the face of it, judged according to modern standards, was the most inconsiderable complication in the world. The economical sacrifice of a personal maid, per se, cannot wring a tear of sympathy from the most tender-hearted and sentimental. As well waste sensibility on a toy Pomeranian whom a cruel fate deprives of the white meat of chicken. But, in the case of Paula Field, the possible sacrifice was a Symbol of the passing away of an old order of things in which she was shocked to discover the roots of her being. She who went about the modern world, as far as her general consciousness was concerned, a modern among the moderns, found herself suddenly thrown back on the rudimentary instincts of a feudal aristocracy. For, apart from the natural affection for a woman who had been her devoted servant since childhood, was the passionate and despairing grip on all the messages of the centuries and their meaning in her evolution.
GREGORY UGLOW, invited from his lonely table during Fandolfo's invalidom, by a kindly Clara Demeter, joined them at dinner. Faula, woman of the world, was all smiles and graciousness.
“I have a message from Sir ictor,” said the young man. “He has insisted on having his bed wheeled into the sitting room. I’m to say that, won’t the ladies have the sweet charity—those vere his words”—Gregory smiled—“to drink their coffee with him upstairs.”
“Why, of course, poor dear man, we shall be delighted,” cried Lady Demeter.
He turned for confirmation to Faula. What could she do, out of common (to say nothing of sweet) charity, but assent? They went up after dinner. The open
window commanded view of new moon coyly peeping over mountain-tops. The room was an extravagant bower of roses. A pallid waiter stood over the coffee cups. On the sideboard were ranged the bottles of the hotel’s supply of liqueurs. Little, shy, blue-uniformed Nurse Williams stood by the jamb of the window. Pandolfo lay, of necessity, flat on his back; and, as far as the turned sheets disclosed, was clad in a wonderful red and gold brocade bedjacket.
“You don’t know what a job I had to get him into it,” whispered Nurse Williams, during the course of the visit.
He out-Pandolfo’d Pandolfo in his welcome. Spoke Shakespearianly of the bright eyes of ladies raining influence and proclaimed his wresting from a management not over-conversant with its cellar, the last bottle of their genuine old green Chartreuse. Triumphantly he made the waiter exhibit the tiny lithographer’s imprint on the label, away down on the right hand bottom corner. “Allier Grenoble.” Anything in the world could be got, he declared, if you took enough trouble.
“But suppose there really had been none?” asked Paula.
“I never suppose such things,” he flashed. “I work on axioms not hypotheses.”
HE DEVELOPED the thesis, talking picturesquely. After that, he made wild projects for a tour of France and Italy—the whole company there assembled, including Nurse Williams who could go to Bodmin afterwards. Especially did he long to satisfy a yearning to see at Ravenna the paintings of one Luca Longhi, a famous fellow who, he was sure, had suffered ages of neglect. Poor Luca shouldn’t be judged by his saints and lute-playing angel in the Louvre. A lame dog of an old painter, whom he wanted to help over a stile. He spoke with so proselytising a zeal that all fell under his spell. Ravenna became the Mecca of their dreams and the Cathedral the tomb of the Prophet Luca Longhi.
“It would be lovely!” cried Clara Demeter.
“I’ve never been on a motor tour,” sighed Nurse Williams.
“Don’t you think the mere word ‘Italy’ has a fascination for one who hasnever been there?” said Gregory Uglow.
“Why not go to Rimini—not far off?” asked Paula, quietly.
“Why not? Yet why?”
_ “It’s most interesting. I went there as a girl. It’s the home of the Great Pandolfo —the Malatesta.”
He shot out a vivid and disconcerting hand: “We shall; if such be your pleasure. And we’ll buy a palazzo—and a Pandolfo will run Rimini again.” Suddenly he snapped his fingers and drummed on his forehead like a man recalling memories. “Yes, I’m right. I know I’m right. I can visualize the page of the book—Yriarte—I never forget. Do you remember the name of the wife of him whom you call the Great Pandolfo?”
“Of course not. How should I?”
“It was Paola—Paola Bianca—” He clasped both his hands behind his head on the pillow, andregarded her triumphantly. She looked aside in confusion. Against this man gibes fell powerless, like indiarubber tipped arrows. Perhaps, more like boomerangs coming back unexpectedly to hit her. For a crazy moment she felt herself the butt of all kinds of idiot dooms and destinies.
Clara broke the situation:
“I’m sure, Sir Victor, you’re making that up.”
“Come to Rimini and see for yourself. There’s a tomb—”
“Oh, now you’re horrid. Our dear Paula hasn’t the least desire to be preserved in marble.”
Paula rose. “I’m going to be pre-erved in lavender. I’ve had an S.O.S. call to-day from Chadford. Yes, really, Clara. I must get home as soon as I can find a seat on a train—”
“My dear—your father?—”
“I must help Myrtilla.”
“Who’s Myrtilla?” asked Pandolfo. “My sister.”
“And your father—is he ill—dying—?” “He needs my help,” said Paula.
. The watchful nurse sprang to the bedside and laid capable hands on the shoulders of the vehement man who was about to spring up regardless of delicately healing ribs. He submitted but pushed her
aside impetuously, and bent his clear eyes on Paula.
“Illness is a private affair between God and doctors. I wouldn’t presume to interfere. But in anything else, your help is my help. Believe your elf—and tell him if you like—that the spiritual, if not the physical descendant of the great Pandolfo whose wife was Paola Bianca, is a rock of defence.”
Lady Demeter came up, with anxious face.
“What’s this that you’ve sprung on us? What’s it all about?”
Paula pulled herself together—resenting her betrayal of feminine nerves— and laughed. She obeyed the inspiration of a Devil of Defiance.
“Forgive me if I’ve been a bit off my balance. But the dear old thing—that’s my father—has written me the most exciting news. They’ve discovered .that the richest coal-mine in the West County runs under Chadford Park. He’s half off his head with joy. It means that we’ll be millionaires and that I’ll be able to satisfy my life’s ambition and buy a moated grange and live there all alone and fade gradually into lilac silk and die in the odor of lavender. Now you know.” She swerved, smiling to Pandolfo. “I thank you, Sir Victor, for your offer — but I don’t think my father would need your help in running a coal field.”
HE SMILED, luminously and ironically. “There, my dear,” said he— she winced at the word’s possessive familiarity—“is where you make a mistake. There’s nothing in the world which a professional cannot run better than an amateur. Put your father into touch with me.” “And with Demeter,” cried Clara, “there’s a fortune in it for everybody.’’ “Except for me,” said Pandolfo, seriously. “It would be an outrage if I contemplated the gain of a penny. I give, I do not sell to our dear lady.”
There was the gift, thundering upon her avalanche-wise, of all his genius and magnetic power in the development of this mythological coal field discovered in some perverse kink of her brain. Lunatic, as it might appear, he believed her story. And why not? Had she not told it—trained social actress that she was—in the most natural way in the world? She was conscious of a clash of talk between Clara and Pandolfo, Clara prevailing. Nurse Williams sat on a straight-backed chair honestly staring, open-mouthed. Gregory Uglow leaned forward scientifically interested.
“It’s all in the air—a coal-field in the air—’’she laughed nervously. “So you see I must go home and explore it.”
“As soon as these confounded ribs are stuck together, I’ll come and explore it with you.”
“By aeroplane,” said Paula. “Goodnight.”
A while later she had an aghast and profoundly shocked Lady Demeter staring at her.
“And not a word of truth in it?”
“Not a word.”
The bewildered lady proclaimed her amazement and asked the reason for her monstrous invention. Paula fenced. At last she spoke, desperately.
“The man has got on my nerves. I can’t stand it. I’m not going to be stuck in a marble tomb with him forty years hence—to say nothing of the intervening period. Yes. I’m a coward if you like. I give up the struggle. I’ll run away. Can I have the use of your car to-morrow? Oh —not to dash off to safety—” she laughed at her friend’s disconcerted face—“only to Aix. I’ve promised the little nurse to get her a trousseau —at Pandolfo’s expense. If he wants to give, I’ll teach him how to do it. I must keep my engagement before I leave, mustn’t I? That’ll fill up tomorrow. The day after I’m for home. As for his ribs—you and the young man can look after them. The point is—can I have the car?”
“Of course, my dear, with pleasure. And by the way, you can take over a little parcel for Spencer Babington. It came by to-night’s post. It’s some nice silk and wool bed-socks like Frank’s. I promised to get him some the last time he came over.”
Paula bit her lips, clenched her hands behind her and looked down on the kind and comfortable lady.
“I’ve had erough to try me to-day, Clara,” she said. “My hump’s at the breaking-point. Don’t throw on the last ttraw. I’ll take Spencer Babington guns
or motor cycles, or skates or absinthe or anarchist literature or anything of that sort you like, but I’ll see you and everybody else in Hades before I’ll take him bed-socks.”
“Because,” said Paula, “I’m going over to-morrow to tell him that I’ll marry him.”
TN UNIFORM Nurse Williams feared 4 neither man nor devil. She would have put ice on a crowned head or taken the temperature of a murderer injured in pursuit of his calling with equal unconcern. But in her inconspicuous mufti, she became a shy and provincial person. Supported by Paula, who had forewarned, by telephone, the invalids of Aix of their coming, she had sat through luncheon rather thrilled and entirely demure. She would have a tale to tell in Bodmin of her ex-professional rubbing of shoulders with the aristocracy. She treasured scraps of their talk from which, her hosts being courteous gentlemen, she was rarely excluded. But it was a different matter when, the meal over, they passed from the hotel salle-amanger, into the leafy terrace-garden, and Paula, to all intents and purposes, told her to go and play with Lord Demeter, while she herself dragged off Sir Spencer Babington to a remote bay of the parapet.
Lord Demeter had said: “The viewover the valley and the lake is magnifi-
To which Paula had replied: “You’ve seen it all for the last hour, from the dining-room window. Miss Williams is fainting for coffee and creme de menthe which don’t appeal to me and are bad for Spencer’s health.”
And she had walked Sir Spencer Babington off as aforesaid, leaving the odd couple planted there beneath the chequered shade of the sycamores. A hurrying waiter set chairs at a little table and took the orders.
“I hope,” said Lord Demeter, in his timid mouse-like way, “you’re not a celebrated person, Miss Williams.”
The little nurse jumped: “Who—I? Hasn’t Mrs. Field told you? I’m only an ordinary professional nurse.”
Lord Demeter beamed. “I’m so glad. My wife’s friends are all such famous people. One never knows whether one is talking to an astronomer or a poet or a prominent lady Bolshevist. I find it dreadfully confusing.” He looked at her with humorous suspicion. “You never go to Buckingham Palace covered all over with medals, do you?”
“Oh dear, no,” laughed Nurse Williams, in spite of her trepidation at being left alone at the terrible mercy of a peer of the realm.
“Then there’s a hope of our becoming really friendly. But tell me—you’re not attending on Lady Demeter?”
She liked him for the note of anxiety in his voice. She longed to give him the assurance that Lady Demeter was as strong as a cart-horse, but she thought it would not be respectful. She explained Pandolfo’s mountain accident. Lord Demeter remembered some account of it in a letter from his wife. He had remarked to Babington, at the time, that it would keep the fellow quiet.
“I don’t envy you your task,” said he. She asked why.
“From what I’ve seen of him, it must be like nursing -a whole Zoological Garden.”
SHE laughed. The ice was broken.
Thenceforward they got on famously. She found the real live lord pleasant and human. Instinct focused them on a common joy in flowers. The only thing she missed in her nursing career. Her father in his small way, was a noted amateur gardener. Lord Demeter confessed a passion for the growing of sweet peas. It was her father’s hobby. At all the flowershows through Cornwall and even Devon he was unrivalled. There was one of which he Was particularly proud—the colour of sunburnt peach. Lord Demeter leaned forward in excitement.
“He’s not by any chance the grower of “The Fairy Dream?”
He was. Lord Demeter leaned back with arms extended in mock despair.
“Then you are celebrated. It’s my dreadful fate never to meet anyone that isn’t.”
She thought him the delightfullest, kindest, simplest little man on earth; which perhaps he was, and wherefore
Clara Demeter adored him. Her shy tongue was unloosened. She told him all about Bodmin and the war hospital in Salonika and the magnificent ways of Sir Victor Pandolfo. She also grew very confidential, leaning across the cane table, cheek on elbows, while he listened, amused, in similar attitude, so that they gave to all beholders the impression of a pair more than politely interested in each other’s company. But she was only telling Pandolfo’s love story; how he slithered about the surface of precipices in order to gather a rubbishy little blue flower for Mrs. Field and how he had declared, without any reservation, that he was going to marry her.
“And do you think she will?” he asked. Nurse Williams nodded sagely. “She’ll have to. He’s one of those people who get everything they want in the world. It isn’t a question of money, although he seems to be awfully rich. But he’d get everything just the same if he was quite poor. Do you understand what I mean?” Lord Demeter shook a sorry head. He did understand. The fellow had walked off with an Italian picture of his which hç. didn’t want to sell, at half the price it would have fetched at Christies. A genuine Sassoferrato with an authentic pedigree from the painter’s brush. If he wanted a woman—
“He’s bound to get her,” cried Nurse Williams.
LORD DE METER rose, for Paula and J Spencer Babington suddenly came up to their table. She stood superb in a gown of light autumn leaf which toned with her rich colouring. The lean Spencer stood sphinx-like by her side.
“Don’t get up. Spencer will find chairs.” A wave dismissed him on the errand. “You’re the first to hear the glad news, Frank. Spencer has once more asked me to marry him and now I’m going to.”
Lord Demeter screwed up his face into a myriad wrinkles of incredulity and within the limit sanctioned by good manners pointed a finger at the chairhunting swain.
“But, my dear, he—he knows nothing at all about it—”
“He must, seeing that he asked Mrs. Field,” cried Nurse Williams, stricken with loss of romantic glamour.
“That isn’t at all what I mean,” cried Demeter.
“What do you mean, Frank?” asked Paula, calmly.
The little man put hands to a bewildered head in which for years past had been stored a Manual of the Whole Duty and Deportment of Husbands. The expert looked aghast at the untried and also unpromising amateur. By the time Spencer arrived presenting the chairs, in his dignified manner as if they were protocols, he had recovered. He offered urbane congratulations. Spencer smiled and fingered his eyeglass.
“Very kind indeed of you, my dear fellow.” He linked his arm gallantly in Paula’s. “From my point of view no congratulations could possibly be adequate.”
The phrase summoned a responsive flush of pleasure into Paula’s cheek. The last hour had brought curious realization of her conception of him at his best. The petty foibles and vanities at which she had always laughed, had vanished for the moment when she had given him to understand her preparedness to reconsider her manifold decisions. She had been deadly frank with him—so was she self-assured. But the deadliness of a woman’s frankness lies in her secret store of the unrevealed. She laid, as she thought, her cards on the table. She scorned false pretences. She admitted the casting-vote of the mercenary motive. Fortunately she was able to give him chapter and verse for the Chadford Park disaster, for she had received by the first post that morning a letter from the hardheaded Myrtilla which filled with snaggy and rocky detail her father’s impressionistic picture of catastrophe.
Said she, more or less, during the course of a none too easy conversation:
“I’ve been fond of you, in a way, for heaven knows how many years. No woman has ever had a more loyal and devoted friend. Or lover.” She granted the word at a sign of protest. “I know you’ve loved me all these long, long years, and I’ve always felt myself to be the most selfish and ungrateful woman
in the world. But it has been a question of you and my independence. And my independence has prevailed. Now my independence has gone up in the air and you swing down in the balance. I don’t love you, in the romantic way of love”— this, be it understood, is but a precis or resume of an incidental duologue—“but for no other man have I such a high regard. ...”
“All these long years to which you have referred,” said he. “I have asked for nothing but the gift of yourself.”
NATURALLY to tell the artless story backwards his renewed proposal had followed her tale of catastrophe and preceded her frank capitulation. There were no crudities in Paula’s conduct of life. She carried the situation with what, in man, is termed urbanity. When she began—lounging with him over the circular bay of the parapet—Spencer Babington had no notion of a woman’s mind made up. He walked at once into the path somewhat disdainfully prepared. Thus she met him on her own ground. As above narrated she felt that she had bared her soul to him; there was nothing withheld that in the future might be the subject of reproach or even of remonstrance.
And yet the name of Victor Pandolfo never passed her lips.
It was Spencer himself, who, later, after the great announcement to Lord Demeter and Nurse Williams alluded to the disturbing man.
“I confess, my dear I’ve been worried by that fellow Pandolfo. He pursues you, never seems to let you alone. I did not mind so much—to employ a figure of speech—your not marrying me, but— forgive a disequilibrated mind for contemplating such a possibility—your marriage with him would have caused me profound mortification.”
“I’m glad, my dear Spencer, that you apologize for hinting at such an absurdity.”
“But you must look at things from my point of view,” Babington persisted, eager to justify himself. “I don’t deny that, in many ways, I detest Pandolfo. He has ninety per cent, of the qualities in man that I most dislike. I grant—I am nothing if not scrupulously fair—a ten per cent, of attraction. He is freehanded, large-minded and I bow to him as an authority on post-Raphaelite Italian art. But he is the greatest egotist I have ever met. That human failing, my dearest Paula, as on long intimacy must have proved to you, is to me the most repulsive and unforgivable. He lives up to one creed—pardon the apparent profanity for the sake of its appositeness. ‘I believe in Pandolfo the Father, Pandolfo the Son, and Pandolfo etcetera.’ His entire horizon is informed with the essence or spirit of Pandolfo. . . . Well, perhaps a woman might not have the man’s clear vision in such a case. I throw myself at your feet for my unworthy and agonized speculations. Even the best, the most beautiful, the most brilliant of women have succumbed to the glamour of the adventurer.”
Paula said drily: “Why should you call him an adventurer? You’ve just said that you prided yourself on being fair. Clara assures me that he belongs to the old Italian nobility.”
Spencer held out his be-ribboned eyeglass.
“I know. Merchant princes. Ice-cream barrows. Or artists. Barrel-organs and monkeys.”
Paula, remembering Pandolfo’s one autobiographical sentence clutched his arm.
“Do you know that as a fact? Do you know anything about his antecedents?” “I don’t,” he admitted. “I was only expressing feelings. I was uncharitable, which was wrong—especially at a moment such as this.”
“That’s one thing I like about you, Spencer—your sense of justice.”
He said drily gallant: “I hope there are others.”
She made laughing answer to which he responded. He was obviously very happy. His unbending loverwise caused her both gratification and amusement. He had unsuspected possibilities which, for development needed only a woman’s guiding hand: an uncultivated garden so to speak, responsive to patient and generous care.
He asked her: “Why didn’t you give me this happiness years ago?”
“My dear Spencer,” said she, “you are one of the people who don’t burst upon a woman but grow upon her. The safest kind.”
Later again, he announced his intention of accompanying her to Renes-les-Eaux. Could he have place in the car for himself, suit-case and man—the last having secured rooms by telephone? How could he live now, sixty miles away?
“I’m doing it away from a real wife,” said Lord Demeter, who felt somewhat aggrieved at the prospect of shy loneliness; “so I don’t see why—well—”
Delicacy checked the flow of his argument. He could only present himself as a forlorn yet spartan figure. Spencer Babington waxed sprightly. There was nothing, said he, like the selfishness of a spoilt husband. It would have done Frank good to be a bachelor for forty years.
“If you imagine you’re going tb be spoilt like Frank,” said Paula, “we had both better cry off at once.”
IT WAS all very pretty, light and charming. The car drove off as on a modern voyage to Cythera. In spite of Spencer Babington’s polite persuasion, plain little Nurse Williams insisted on occupying one of the small, spare seats and on swinging it round so that she could get the fullest advantage of the scenery. In delicious, contentment, she gripped a little parcel containing half a dozen square inches of expensive rubbish which the feminine brain queerly identifies as handkerchiefs —a gift from Lord Demeter who had dashed in search of some harmless vanity into the vanity shop along the corridor of the hotel. It had been a red-letter day in her life. She had held her own, made good, as the phrase goes, not as a nurse— to that she was accustomed—but as a pleasant human woman. She was all of a glow—and the most sweet and innocent glow in the world. Men do not realize the joy that a starved woman derives from the tiniest gift of themselves. And it is only the simple-hearted and great gentlemen, like Frank Demeter, who give it instinctively.
Mrs. Field and Sir Spencer might have made the most furious love together in the back seat behind her, and she wouldn’t have cared. She had never purred in such delicate rapture in her life. Esther Williams had found herself as a social personage.
Meanwhile the newly engaged pair did not, by any means, cause the road-bounding trees to turn aside modestly or the skies to blush, at any amorous phenomena. Once he took her hand.
“Do you know, my dear Paula, I haven’t yet had the opportunity of kissing you.”
Said she, with a laugh, “You have kissed me at least a dozen times in our lives.”
“I know,” said he. “Could I ever forget? But it has been a question of privilege—old friendship. They have been dealt out, one by one, through many years. The first was when you wore pigtails and it was your thanks, somewhat impulsive, for a box of chocolates. There were others which were only consolation prizes.”
“If you grow so pathetic, you’ll make me cry,” said Paula. “Look at those violet shadows on the mountains. Aren’t they wonderful?”
“What are violet mountains to me at the present moment?”
His black-ribboned monocle waved them dismissal.
“That was nicely put,” she said. “But, all the same, don’t you think you’ve lost quite an opportunity?”
He bent round courteously: “I don’t quite catch—?”
“Why didn’t you say: ‘Damn the violet mountains!’?”
“I suppose I’m rather old-fashioned,” he replied, stiffly, resenting the implied criticism.
She caught him by the arm, seeing that he was ruffled.
“What in the name of common sense is the use of being old-fashioned in a newfashioned world?”
“The old stands for dignity, respect . . . honor of women . ”
“But what ‘old’? Pull yourself together, my dear. As Napoleon said in front of the Sphinx. ‘The Centuries are regarding us.’ Do you mean 1820, 1620, 1420, two million and twenty B.C. when you would, without any shadow of doubt, split open my exasperating head with a stone
hatchet? The further I go back, the less honor I see paid to women. We’re living in the nineteen-twenties, people of our own generation, expressing in some sort of blind instinctive way, the spirit of our own generation. It’s lunatic for a young man like you to declare himself old-fashioned. Why limit yourself, as I feel you do, to Queen Victoria? Why not imitate the colossal ass of the modern world—you know whom I mean—who goes about Paris with horrid bare toes in the costume of the Ancient Greeks?”
Said he: “I appreciate what you say, my dear Paula. But how would you—in broad terms, of course—define modernity?”
She knitted a perplexed brow. Was ever woman on voyage to Cythera, confronted with a problem so metaphysical, sociological, psychological?
In amused desperation she said:
“We’re crisp, at any rate.”
She nodded, while he seemed to revolve the word round his brain.
“I’m afraid, my dear Paula, I’ve been trained in diplomacy. Diplomacy is never crisp.”
“Wait till you get me out to Czechoslovakia,” she said.
And, a minute or two afterwards: “May I again draw your attention to the violet shadows? Just look at them. Don’t talk.”
THEY wound their way through the enchanted valley. The afternoon sun bathed the eastern slopes in glory. The ripe corn fields shone like gold. From hillembosomed villages of red and russet rose the copper cupola of the church flaming beaconwise. The western mountain sides ■ lay in infinite grades of shadow from pale grey to the intense violet that had caught at Paula’s heart. Crimson and purple quivered over the face of quarries. Here and there the crumbling ruin of a signeurial stronghold caught the sun and gleamed triumphant. Flashing or sinister, according to the magic of the light, the thin cascades leaped precipitously from the heights into the milky Isere flowing by the roadside with a Gallic assumption of turbulence. In the sunshine and shadow, on hill or in strip of plain, the kindly earth gave fulfillment of its promise of fruitfulness. Cattle grazed in deep pasture to the melody of bells. Brown-eyed children herded goats. Often the pleasant countryfolk waved a greeting. They passed the gigantic cliff whose silhouette bears so marked a resemblance to the human face that it is called the Tete du Géant. And every now and then against the pale blue of the sky, appeared the pale dead glimmer of the eternal snows of Switzerland.
Once, emotion conquering discretion, Nurse Williams swerved round on her swivelled chair.
“It’s all so beautiful, Mrs. Field, I feel I want to cry.”
Paula laid a caressing touch on her shoulder and smiled her comprehension. The girl, quite happy, betook herself to her rapt contemplation.
“What would you say if I burst into tears too?” asked Paula.
Spencer Babington replied urbanely— perhaps in the adverb’s strictest sense: “Oh—I quite admit the effect of Nature on the —er—sentiments. Wordsworth and Peter Bell and the primrose by a river’s brim. I’m afraid there are a lot of Peter Bells in the world.”
“Dreadful people, aren’t they?” “Quite,” said Spencer Babington.
They talked no more that day about natural scenery.
“TF YOU want help,” said Lady DemeA ter, “don’t come to me for it.”
She washed her hands free from all complicity in the drama which she feared was about to be enacted. She lived an unruffled, comfortable life, directress of unruffled, comfortable things. As a husband, or even as a lover, the shadowy and devoted Demeter sufficed her: as a wife, not only was she beyond reproach, a model of great and virtuous dames, but she also adored, for his delicate and exquisite qualities, the little man to whom she was married. Of course, as people said, she wore the breeches, to say nothing of jack-boots and spurs. But if he didn’t mind, what did it matter? The spurs were ornamental. The mere suggestion of rowels would have gored her generous heart. The pair had lived together in a mutual understanding almost spiritually idyllic, since their marriage as
girl and somewhat elderly boy. Storm and tempest and other clash of elements had never come within the sphere of her sheltered being. She loved her social position as entertainer of entertaining lions. In their strangeness lay safety. At a hint of inter-leonine complications, the doors of Histed were closed to the parties concerned. So, in accordance with principle, she announced to Paula her Pilateike attitude.
i ut announcement of intention and its execution are two different things. She loved Paula very dearly. Besides, Paula, except perhaps decoratively, wasn’t a lion. She couldn’t shoo her away and bid her quarrel elsewhere. Also, she was very angry with her; especially when Paula replied, superb and ironical:
“I don’t see, my dear Clara, in what way I can possibly need your assistance.” “Who is going to tell Pandolfo and wrestle with him when he knows?”
Paula shrugged her shoulders.
“For everyone his own business. It’s not mine and it certainly isn’t yours.” “But it will be mine,” cried the indignant lady. “He’ll bring the hotel down about my ears, like the man in the Bible— Sampson, I think. You’ll be safely away on your return to England to-morrow, while I’m tied here to finish my cure.”
“All you’ve got to say to him,” replied Paula, “is, ‘My dear man, go out and rave at rocks and torrents; don’t rave at me, I’ve nothing to do with it!’ ”
“But I’ve a lot to do with it,” cried Lady Demeter. “Do you suppose I haven’t been bored stiff, listening to him talking about you? He has taken it for granted that I’m his ally.”
“It’s because he takes everything for granted, that I have no use for him,” said Paula.
LADY DEMETER, in spite of figuraJ tive washing of hands, let herself go, feeling herself to be a woman outraged in all her instincts and sensibilities. The hardness of nails, she declared, was as nothing compared with the concrete petrifaction of Paula’s disposition. The day’s happenings had entirely revolutionized her conception of Paula’s character. She would say nothing of the splendid and worldly side of things; the fantastic fortune with which everyone credited Pandolfo. Nor of the genuinely Romantic: one of the great chival ous figures of the modern world laying all that woman could wish for at her feet. Nothing. What was Spencer Babington giving her? In the ordinary way she liked Spencer, a sort of elegant bit of human Sheraton to have about the drawing-room. That was his outside. In reality he was one of those horrid things with tentacles drawing everything within reach unto himself. Oh, he had enough money, of course; but she was not speaking of money _ or of romance. It was a mere question of playing the game. Paula was not playing the game. Paula hotly demanded explanation. Clara retorted that she might at least have waited until the ribs which Pandolfo had broken in her service were mended and he was physically fit to come down and throw Spencer Babington into the river.
“I’m ashamed of you,” she cried. “It isn’t fair. Don’t you see you’re hitting a man when he’s down?”
“I don’t intend to hit him when he’s up. The engagement won’t be made public yet awhile. I want to see first w'hat is happening at Chadford.” .
“Do you suppose Nurse Williams isn t telling him all about it at the present moment?”
“I asked her not to, and Spencer made it a special point with Frank not to mention the engagement to anyone.”
“You’re a pair of awful cowards, both of you,” exclaimed Lady Demeter. “You’re frightened to death of Pandolfo. I’ve a good mind to tell him myself; and I would if I weren’t afraid he would burst his poor dear ribs all over again. Imagine Spencer breaking his ribs for anybody! Oh! I’ve no patience with you. I’m not coming down to dinner. I’ll have a plate of cold ham in my room. T ou and Spencer can have a tender tete-a-tete meal. And if that nice boy Gregory Uglow comes along, you can hiss him away like the two wicked, selfish, cowardly geese that you are!”
And she bounced, not without dignity, out of the room, banging the door behind her.
To be Continued